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Top Tips to Cope with Vertigo and Acrophobia on a Tall Ship


Posted on: 26.10.16

One of the greatest aspects if sail training is the opportunity that it gives you to step into a world of adventure. A world where you can challenge yourself and learn new, exciting, skills. One of the activities onboard a tall ship that demonstrates this more than any other is undertaking a mast climb…

Climbing the mast in order to set the sails, stowing the sails and complete much needed rigging checks is a crucial part of life on board. Any trainees invited to help out with these tasks are given all the training they need, and are secured with safety harnesses. For those of you who suffer with vertigo, or acrophobia, there are a few extra things you can do to get the reassurance you need to overcome your fears.

It is estimated that vertigo, or acrophobia to use its technical name, affects up to 1 on 20 of general population. While feelings of anxiousness and fear when scaling great heights can be understood, for those with vertigo or acrophobia, the thought of tackling the heights found on board can be debilitating. A few symptoms include nausea, dizziness, extreme anxiety and panic.

Here at Sail On Board, we want to make sure you get the most out of your experiences with sail training, so we put together our five top tips to cope with vertigo and acrophobia on a tall ship.

Gradually expose yourself to heights on board

Although an all or nothing attitude is often something to be admired, it might not suit the challenge of overcoming a fear of heights. Instead of aiming for the highest point of the mast straight away, try exposing yourself to your fears gradually. That way you break down the challenge of facing your fear into smaller, more manageable amounts.

Avoid caffeine

As a natural energy booster, caffeine often raises your heart rate when you drink it. This is great for keeping you alert on those early morning watch shifts, but it’s not so great when you’re feeling anxious staring up at the rigging of a mast. Once you decide on a suitable time to tackle some heights on board, make sure you leave that hot cup of coffee until you’re safely back down from your climb.

Although welcome on those early watch shifts, caffeine often raises your heart rate.

Although welcome on those early watch shifts, caffeine often raises your heart rate.

Consider the facts

Something that is often forgotten with phobias is the fact that they are defined by their irrational nature. Try tackling your fear of heights with the facts available to you. If your phobia is relatively minor, it is quite likely that by simply talking to the permanent members of your crew on board, who have made many mast climbs and scaled other great heights before, with be enough to give you the confidence to make a safe climb.

Use relaxation techniques before any climbs

Relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation, can often help tackle feelings of fear and anxiety. Exercises as simple as deep breathing whilst considering situations that trigger your fears, or attending a few beginners yoga classes can be enough to help you master relaxation. The key element you learn is how emotions are strongly connected to your physical actions, like breathing, sweating, and heart rate.

Relaxation techniques, such as Yoga, can often help combat feelings of fear and anxiety.

Relaxation techniques, such as Yoga, can often help combat feelings of fear and anxiety.

Visit your doctor

As with many challenges, it always pays to prepare. As soon as you have your sail training booking confirmed, go and see your doctor. They will be trained to understand you fear and diagnose it correctly. From that accurate diagnosis, they will be able to prescribe the best course of treatment for you, whether it is one of the suggestions above, or a specific kind of anti-anxiety treatment.

Have you ever suffered with vertigo or acrophobia whilst onboard a tall ship? Did you find any of our top tips helpful? What different things did you do to help you tackle your fear? Let us know in the comments section below…

Up for the Challenge?

If you are feeling empowered by our top tips, or just love the exhilarating thrill of scaling heights, why not check out some of the tallest ships we have taking part in the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta and book your place to Sail On Board!

Alexander Von Humboldt II – 36m high mast
Christian Radich – 33m high mast
Gulden Leeuw – 39m high mast
Wylde Swan – 36m high mast